Peter Reinhart has done it again, he has produced yet another extremely informative and inspirational book on bread making. Similar, in a way, to his previously published Crust and Crumb:Master Formulas For Serious Bread Bakers, this book improves and simplifies his formulas (recipes). Throughout the book Mr. Reinhart lends his philosophies, anecdotes, and personal knowledge. These descriptions and instructions are so interesting and well informed it's as if the author holds the reader's hand. This is particularly true during the first two chapters entitled What Is It About Bread?, and Deconstructing Bread: A Tutorial.
Besides the recipes there is a wealth of knowledge to be had in this book. There is, for example, and entire subchapter that focuses on the twelve stages of bread making. This is illustrated through text, charts, and photos (more than 50 pages alone are devoted to these very important steps). The recipes, which Peter Reinhart refers to as formulas, are also interesting. They of course focus on artisan-style breads (the recipe for ciabatta is easy to produce and exceptional), but the are also recipes for homemade bagels, English muffins, and even three different types of brioche-Rich Man's Brioche, Middle Class Brioche, and Poor Man's Brioche. But the recipe that seems to be Mr. Reinhart's pride and joy of the book is more than simply a recipe, it's an actual method, it is called Pain a' l'Ancienne (Ancient Bread). It is a method of bread making that is deconstructing of sorts, it strips the bread making process down to the bare essentials. And though its name denotes an ancient sounding technique, the author is convinced this is the bread making method of the future.
The Baker's Apprentice:Mastering The Art Of Extraordinary Bread is a "must have" for any cook that is interested in bread making. It is as interesting to read as it is useful, and the beautiful photos (by Ron Manville) make it a viable display book as well. But there is one typographical error that as a reviewer I feel compelled to point out. During the first chapter of the book when the author mentions the great food writer James Beard, it states that the inspirational writer and cook passed away in 1982, when in fact (according to the website of the James Beard Foundation) he lived until January of 1985. Nonetheless, this book is a welcomed addition to my culinary library.
Peter Reinhart founded Brother Juniper's Bakery in Santa Rosa, California, and is formerly baking instructor at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He is currently baking instructor at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He is also the author of numerous acclaimed books, which include the aforementioned Crust and Crumb, and also Brother Juniper's Bread Book: Slow Rise As Method and Metaphor, Sacramental Magic in a Small-Town Café: Recipes and Stories from Brother Juniper's Café, and Bread Upon The Waters: A Pilgrimage Toward Self-Discovery and Spiritual Truth. Mr. Reinhart is a lay brother in Christ the Savior Brotherhood, which is an Eastern Orthodox Christian service order.